What is iodine?

Iodine is a trace mineral – a mineral our body needs in very small amounts. However this doesn’t make it less important than the other minerals – it is vital for production of thyroid hormone, which necessary for normal metabolism and governs many other processes in the body. In foods, iodine is found in the greatest amounts in seaweeds such as kelp, kombu and arame. Other sources are shellfish, fish and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds – or tahini). Eggs and milk may also contain a reasonable amount depending on the iodine content of the soil the animals have grazed on.

What does iodine do in the body?

Iodine’s main role in the body is the production of thyroid hormone. As mentioned above, efficient functioning of the thyroid gland and normal thyroid hormone levels are necessary for normal metabolism (the rate at which we burn energy). Thyroid hormone can also affect many other functions and processes in the body including our day-to-day energy levels, rate of digestion, elimination of toxins from the body, rate and strength of our heartbeat, function of our other endocrine (hormone-producing) glands, our immunity, mood and even speed of thinking. A diet that leads to a deficiency in iodine may therefore have an impact on all these aspects of our health.

How can I take iodine supplements?

We often advise taking iodine in the form of kelp supplements. Kelp is commonly available as capsules or tablets, and the amount of iodine per capsule/tablet can vary from about 150mcg (micrograms) to 450mcg. Liquid iodine supplements are also available. Higher-strength iodine supplements can also be found, as tablets or liquids, containing up to 12mg (milligrams) of iodine per dose. Please note that we would only recommend using these high-strength supplements on a short-term basis, unless you are under the treatment of a nutritionist or naturopath who has recommended these products.

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